EXPLAINER: California’s electric vehicle requirements hit some hurdles

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DETROIT – California will require all new cars, trucks and SUVs sold in the state to run on electricity or hydrogen by 2035 as part of an ambitious move away from gasoline-powered vehicles and the pollution they emit.

The requirements come in phases from 2026, and it will take 13 years for them to become fully effective. But there are many challenges to meet them.

Electric vehicles now cost much more than gasoline-powered vehicles. There are shortages of precious metals needed for their batteries. The United States has little battery manufacturing capacity.

But a lot can change in 13 years. Here’s what we know about problem areas and what’s being done about them:

WILL CAR MANUFACTURERS BE ABLE TO MANUFACTURE ENOUGH ELECTRIC VEHICLES?

More than likely. In the first half of this year, electric vehicle sales accounted for about 15% of the new vehicle market in California. New vehicle sales in the state normally hover around 2 million per year. That’s roughly a 1.5 million difference that needs to be made up by 2035. But almost every day, Automakers announce new electric vehicle models, battery factories and assembly factories. Ford, General Motors, Toyota, Hyundai-Kia, Stellantis and VinFast have announced plans for 10 US battery factories.

“New factories are coming in and old factories are being converted,” said Sam Fiorani, vice president of AutoForecast Solutions. “Plans are in place for a large quantity of vehicles to be ready for US and global markets.”

The big ifs, however, are whether there will be enough precious metals, like lithium, to make the batteries, and whether prices for electric vehicles will come down fast enough. Laurie Holmes, Kia’s senior director of government affairs, told California officials on Thursday that the industry could struggle to meet sales targets. She urged the state to support incentives for consumers to buy electric vehicles and help set up a charging system.

CAN THE ELECTRICAL NETWORK SUPPORT THE LOAD?

The California Energy Commission expects electric vehicles to add only a small amount of energy over the next 10 years. The commission estimates that 3.7 million light-duty electric vehicles will be in use in the state in 2030, and they will only account for about 2.6 percent of peak-hour electricity consumption. David Reichmuth, principal engineer at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said electric vehicle charging can be scheduled for off-peak hours, particularly during the day when wind and solar power are more available. Utilities will be able to send messages to cars to start or stop charging based on electricity demand, he said.

WON’T ELECTRIC VEHICLES BE TOO EXPENSIVE FOR MANY PEOPLE?

It’s possible, although prices are coming down, and are expected to come down as costs are spread across multiple vehicles and new battery chemistries are developed that don’t use a lot of precious metals. expensive. Currently, most US EVs are aimed at high-income luxury or pickup truck buyers and start at $40,000 or more, out of reach for many. But prices are starting to drop. For example, General Motors says it will offer a small Chevrolet SUV with a starting price of around $30,000 that should travel nearly 300 miles (500 kilometers) per charge. The federal government next year will provide tax credits of $7,500 for electric vehicles made in North America, driving down purchase prices. And California offers cash, rebates and special financing for low-income buyers. Additionally, EV buyers will save on fuel and maintenance costs.

DO EVS REALLY POLLUTE LESS, CONSIDERING THE MANUFACTURING AND MINING OF METALS FOR BATTERIES?

Several studies, including some by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, say yes. Although there is pollution from mining, electric vehicles are so much cleaner than gas-powered vehicles on the road that they only need a short time to compensate for mining. A study published this summer by the Union of Concerned Scientists looked at lifetime emissions, including the manufacturing process.

“In total, the lifetime emissions of an electric car or an electric pickup are half those of a gasoline-powered vehicle,” Reichmuth said. The gap between gas and electricity will widen as more electricity comes from renewable sources such as wind and solar, he said.

“There is nothing we are going to do about aggressively promoting electrification that will be worse for the planet than burning fossil fuels,” said Margo Oge, president of the International Council for Clean Transportation and former top official of the United States Environmental Protection Agency. official.

WILL OTHER STATES FOLLOW CALIFORNIA?

Currently, 17 other states have adopted California’s greenhouse gas emission requirements, most of them on the coasts. In total, they represent about 40% of all new vehicle sales in the United States. Washington state has already started the process to track electric vehicle sales requirements, and more are expected to do so. It will take other states longer to follow the process, and many don’t have the demand for electric vehicles or the charging infrastructure that California has.

Ronayne reported from Sacramento, Calif.

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